Ship sail

The sister ship of the sunken Russian cruiser Moskva leaves the Mediterranean, followed by American destroyers

RTS Marshal Ustinov (055) departing the Mediterranean Sea on August 24, 2022. Photo by Michael J. Sanchez used with permission.

The sister ship of the Russian missile cruiser sunk by the Ukrainian Navy has left its position in the Mediterranean Sea after six months, USNI News has learned.

RTS Marshal Ustinov (055), sister ship of the former RTS Moscow (121), crossed the Strait of Gibraltar on Thursday after operating in the Mediterranean Sea since early February, according to ship spotters. Shortly after passing through the Atlantic, two American guided-missile destroyers assigned to the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, USS Cole (DDG-67) and USS Bainbridge (DDG-96), followed the Russian cruiser two hours after passing the Rock of Gibraltar, according to photos released by ship spotters. The cruiser was one of Russia’s main naval assets in the region and reduces Moscow’s presence closer to Ukraine.

Ustinovas well as the other two Slava-class cruisers of the Russian Navy – the Moscow and RTS Varyag (011) – were brought out of their homeports earlier this year in conjunction with the Russian ground invasion of Ukraine.

Ustinovwhich is part of the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet, entered the Mediterranean in early February leading a surface action group and settled off the southern coast of Crete while the Varyag operated closer to Syria and the Russian logistics base in Tartous, USNI News reported at the time.

Graphic HI Sutton. Used with permission

Deployments occurred alongside NATO and U.S. presence operations centered on the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), its escorts and its embarked air wing. Truman has been in the Mediterranean since December and its air wing has flown up to 90 sorties per day.

Designed in the 1970s to take on American aircraft carriers armed with 16 telephone pole-sized SS-N-12 Sandbox anti-ship cruise missiles, the Slava-class ships became part of the Russian fleet after the end of the cold war.

Two Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship guided missiles attacked and sunk Moscow in April. USNI News reported in May that the cruiser likely sank because her point defense radars were not operational.

While the United States has an extensive logistics footprint in the region, resupplying and refueling Russia has been more difficult, according to USNI News contributor HI Sutton.

“The Russian Navy does not have significant maintenance facilities in the Mediterranean. We can assume that crew fatigue due to longer periods of increased preparation may be a factor”, as they departed, he wrote.

Sutton released satellite photos showing Ustinov refuel on Tuesday before leaving the region.

Meanwhile, the George HW Bush Carrier Strike Group entered the US 6th Fleet. USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77) departed Naval Station Norfolk, Va., Aug. 10 and is expected to relieve Truman in the coming days.

Truman has been deployed for eight and a half months.